‘Chevalier’ Star Kelvin Harrison Jr. Spent Six Hours a Day Learning Violin to Play Music Prodigy
Kelvin Harrison Jr. spent up to six hours a day playing the violin in preparation for his latest film “Chevalier.” The period drama, set before the French Revolution, follows the life of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, also known as Black Mozart. The Searchlight Pictures film also stars Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Marton Csokas, Alex Fitzalan and Minnie Driver.
Speaking with Variety, Harrison Jr. said despite being raised in a musical family (his father was a classical musician and a music teacher) he didn’t know about Chevalier. “I had no clue who he was, but he was pretty bold, and I was blown away by him,” he says.
Harrison Jr. already knew how to play violin; as a young boy, he was playing the adult size. “I had a handle for it and went straight into playing in the orchestra. I was the first chair and got selected to play in orchestras,” he says. However, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused water damage to his prized possession, he stopped playing.
Harrison Jr. was filming Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” in Australia when he learned he got the part in director Stephen Williams’ (“Watchmen”) film. His “Elvis” co-star Austin Butler gave him a hug upon learning the news. “Austin said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a lot of work to do.’ So, I started my violin training there,” says Harrison Jr.
Once he had wrapped playing B.B King in Lurhmann’s film, he returned to New Orleans and worked with his father. “I wanted to go and be with him because he’s a music teacher. I knew he could guide me in how to pace myself. He said, ‘We’re going to do four to six hours daily. We can break it up the morning, before lunch or after lunch and before you go to bed at night.” His father also advised him to “fall asleep to the music and learn how to become one with the music and find your own storytelling.”
After spending a few months with his father, Harrison Jr. returned to LA where he also got a violin teacher. And once he got to the set in Prague where the film was shot, he spent all day in rehearsals.
Stefani Robinson (“Atlanta”) wrote the script, and Harrison Jr. says he’s excited to finally be telling this story: “What touched me the most was the resilience he had despite the amount of rejection.”
In the film, Chevalier climbs the ranks in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer who vies for a place to headline at the Paris Opera House. Favored by Marie Antoinette’s court, his story involves an ill-fated love affair and a falling out of royal favor.
“He wasn’t trying to get ahead of himself. I think what hurt the most was them wanting to include him and wanting to use him as much as they did, but not really fully wanting to accept him,” says Harrison Jr. “What I was so excited to do is give him an opportunity, where he wasn’t put second and where he wasn’t discarded of, and giving him my full undivided attention. This movie ultimately will give him the big stage, the love, respect and fandom that he deserves.”
Chevalier is released on April 21. Watch the trailer below.
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